Front Row Centre with Ann & Nancy Wilson
Last night (August 16), I had a long-standing dream come true. This was a dream 35 years in the making. I was going to meet my all-time favourite musicians. These two women have lead a band that I have loved since hearing the first sustained note of their first single, Magic Man back in 1976.
Now, not to brag, but I have met a lot of famous people in music, film and television over the years. Some of them really famous: Madonna, Tina Turner, Celine Dion, Robbie Robertson. They were all amazing moments that have etched a spot in my mind and heart for life. Yet, the meeting I was to have this steamy Toronto summer night would be the coup of a lifetime.
Let me take a few steps back. I became a Heartmonger several years ago. Heartmongers are diehard fans of the band Heart and have formed a kind of global network. Ann & Nancy Wilson are very supportive of Heartmongers and go out of their way to reach out and create ties with us. That means special tickets to concerts, special, exclusive merchandise and special meet & greets when they tour.
Out a backstage door walked Ann & Nancy Wilson
This year, Heart has been having a lot of meet & greets while touring with Def Leppard. And they decided to have one in Toronto. These are won in a lottery through the fan club managed by the elusive MagicMan. I won the lottery. Jackpot. I was finally going to meet my idols.
I arrived at the Molson Amphitheatre with plenty of time to spare to get my special instructions for the meet. As soon as I put on my red Heart wristband I began to feel like this was really going to happen. I wandered the site and found where we were to gather to be taken to la Wilsons. I grabbed a beer and watched the people filling the stands as I waited. Finally, the time had come.
Sue, who tours with Heart and manages many aspects of their on- and off-road business greeted us and took us backstage. After a little chat about rules (no grabbing, hugging, etc.) and asking us to get out our items to be autographed we were minutes away from launch. A few of the Mongers I met were quite emotional about the impending meeting. I must say, I was one of them.
And then it happened. Out a backstage door walked Ann & Nancy Wilson. There they were, in person and heading our way. They smiled at everyone as we clapped for a short moment. I was struck by how beautiful these women are in person. They have the glow that only real stars have. They seemed to be lit from the inside. However, they had no pretention about them whatsoever as they waved at us and said “Hi”, smiles beaming.
There were a few people ahead of me to meet “the girls” and I rehearsed in my head what I was going to say so I wouldn’t just start babbling like a buffoon. Finally, it was my turn. I walked up to them, smiling the widest smile and said ‘Hello”. I was literally a foot away from them. Ann looked at me with a warm smile and said hello back. She was so laid back and serene. Nancy was a little more animated with her greeting.
I did the obligatory, “I’ve been a fan since Dreamboat Annie and have loved you guys since the beginning and have seen every show in Toronto and surrounding area.” Standard stuff. I then handed them the item I wanted to have signed. It was a European import double CD single with one disc featuring Ann’s face and the other featuring Nancy’s face. They were surprised to see it telling me they had never seen this before and how cool it was. As each signed their respective disc we made a little small talk.
Then it was time for the photo. I was standing beside Ann with Nancy on her other side. Suddenly, I looked at Ann and blurted, “This will never do. I need to be…” I was stopped when Ann took me by the shoulder and moved me to her other side, finishing my sentence with, “…in the middle.”
Suddenly, Nancy broke away form the group heading to the stage and ran up to me.
photo courtesy of heart-music.com
Happily ensconced between the women I have admired for three and a half decades, I was in heaven. As we shuffled a bit and waited for the click, I leaned toward Nancy and mentioned I had interviewed her earlier this year. She nodded and said that was cool. I laughed, saying I wouldn’t expect her to remember. Then I just decided to remind her of a question she had actually thought was very interesting at the time of the interview. She paused, tilted her head, then looked at me and said, “Yes, I do remember that.” Then she nudged my shoulder with hers.
Click. The picture was taken. My personal time with my idols came to an end with the sound of a shutter. Or so I thought. We said our goodbyes and I thanked them and then stood aside for the next lucky Monger to have their moment in the sun.
As the Wilsons were about to leave, as they had to be onstage in a few minutes, I leaned forward and made an ambiguous comment about Paul McCartney (I’m also a Beatles fan). Suddenly, Nancy broke away form the group heading to the stage and ran up to me. She grabbed my arm, leaned in close to me and told me about a couple of songs she and Ann had just recorded for Sir Paul’s 70th birthday tribute. They being devoted Beatles fans from their childhood. She then gave me a big, bright smile and was off. I stood stunned as the other Mongers looked on. And then it was time to head to our seats.
I was front row centre as Heart took the stage and opened with the Led Zeppelin classic, Rock and Roll. Then came Magic Man, Heartless, Straight On, What About Love, These Dreams, Alone, WTF, Crazy on You and Barracuda. The sold out crowd went berserk, screaming and cheering at every song, marveling at Ann Wilson’s otherworldly voice. After two encores that blew the audience away, they left the stage. My evening with Heart was officially over.
I had waited 35 years for this moment and it was more than I ever dreamed it would be. These women are beautiful, warm and gracious. They truly love their fans and it shows. They truly love making music—and that shows.
Thank you Ann & Nancy Wilson for 35 years of poetry, music and inspiration that I have traveled with throughout my life. When it comes to being a devoted fan, I sure chose right!
Tags: Andrew Vail
, Ann Wilson
, Crazy on You
, Magic Man
, Molson Amphitheatre
, Nancy Wilson